A Thousand Cranes & Other Collaborative Art

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This week I had the good fortune to visit Anna Bing Arnold Children’s Center at Cal State L.A., where creative ideas are thriving. Curriculum Coordinator Alexandra Walsh and Director Patricia Ulloa have decades of combined experience and a particularly innovative staff. Like Dominic, who facilitated this brilliant collaborative puzzle piece painting with three- and four-year-olds, which immediately caught my eye. Isn’t it brilliant?

anna crane 2 anna crane 3Dominic explained how this experimental project began by cutting 12 x 18” Real Watercolor Paper into puzzle shapes, then prompting children to select a shape and paint it using Colorations® Simply Washable Fluorescent Tempera. The puzzle pieces were placed in a basket in the art area for use at any time. The intense color you see here resulted from distinct 3 variables:  (1) using fluorescent paint,  (2) mounting each puzzle piece painting onto black construction paper, then trimming a close border, and (3) by using watercolor paper instead of white construction paper. The added thickness (and spongy quality) of watercolor paper absorbs more pigment than regular paper, giving the finished paintings a visual “pop.”   Nice!

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I fell in love with this Thousand Cranes Origami project, facilitated by Jasmine Cruz and Raul Delgado, which creates a unique environment that children, parents and teachers all participated in!  This delightful classroom activity, which combines open-ended art with math foundations and collaborative teamwork, embodies the “Four C’s” which children will later address in Kindergarten and elementary school.  These “Four C’s” are the four specific skills deemed by the US Dept of Education to be the most important for preparing students to succeed in the 21st century: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.  Kudos to Jasmine and Raul for initiating an important learning experience while adding beauty and innovation to their school.

anna crane 8A Thousand Origami Cranes is a group of one thousand origami paper cranes held together by strings. An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane. Some stories believe you are granted eternal good luck. The crane in Japan is one of the mystical or holy creatures that is said to live for a thousand years: That is why 1,000 cranes are made, one for each year. Here children decorated papers over the course of two months, while parents and staff folded them into a thousand origami cranes. Thanks to patience and motivation, the children’s parents, grandparents and teachers strung all thousand of their hand-colored paper cranes onto cord and even added pony beads for charm.

Creative art programs like this one develop over time as the result of intention and practice on the part of administration and teachers. Lots of little tips that facilitate art set-ups are learned from experience. Writing the paint color of each bottle on the top of the white lid makes identifying each bottle a breeze.  Glue doesn’t just stick things together. It can be used in unique ways and one way is to pour a thick layer of clear glue onto a smooth surface and add seed pods, ferns and natural collage elements. When the thick layer of glue eventually dries, it creates a unique semi-clear glaze which holds the collage elements together. This second collage also uses clear glue, but in this one the glue is first infused with Colorations® Liquid Watercolor, then is painted and drizzled onto butcher paper.

anna crane 9 anna crane 10 anna crane 11anna crane 12Last but not least I re-discovered one of my favorite art techniques at Anna Bing Arnold that day:  the wonderful effect of colored chalk on black paper. This black butcher paper mural has so much energy, and I love how the door handle was cut out!  It also beautifully illustrates the constructionist idea on the poster in the center’s lobby: “Inviting children to fully engage in the use of messy, unstructured materials allows them to explore freely with infinite possibilities.”anna crane 13Thank you, Alex and staff for a LOT of inspiration.  Which one do YOU want to try?  

Materials Used Here:
Colorations® Liquid Watercolor Paints, 8 oz. – Set of 18 (LW18)

Colorations® Washable Clear Glue (P4GL)

Butcher Paper Rolls (P4018)

36″ x 1000′ Dual Surface Rolls, 40 lb., black (PDSBK)

Colorations® Colored Dustless Chalk – 100 pieces (CNODUST)

12 x 18″ Real Watercolor Paper – 50 sheets (BIGMONET)

9×12″ Heavyweight Construction Paper – 50 sheets (9CPBK)

Colorations® Simply Washable Fluorescent Tempera – set of 7 (FSWTSET)

Pony Beads – 1 lb. (PONY)

* Brought to you by Discount School Supply®

* For more ideas, visit Art and Creativity in Early Childhood Education.

Vision Boards & the Art of Collage

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Have you heard about vision boards? A vision board is a visualization tool that you can use as inspiration toward your ideal life. Some people refer to it as a “dream board” or an “inspiration board.”

Vision boards are a great way to have fun with simple art supplies and set your sights on positive goals. January is a perfect month to set positive intentions for your work and your life. Would you like to explore the simple art of collage and consider making a vision board yourself?

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This weekend I invited a few girlfriends over to create 2015 vision boards. We had so much fun! Everyone brought a few magazines and with basic art supplies and poster board, we created “mandala” style vision boards. Classic vision boards are created on standard sized poster board, but I prefer the finished look of a circle – it’s much more visually pleasing. You can take any standard-sized poster board and make a circle out of it by tracing a large circle onto it (we used a trash can lid here) and cutting it out before you begin your collage.

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Lately I’ve been delivering “Renew Your Passion” workshops at conferences to help teachers de-stress and reconnect with their sense of joy and purpose. Collage is a great way to revitalize your spirit because it’s easy and fun and lends itself to a focus on personal values and goals. In these examples from a recent workshop, we collaged quotes, pictures and value words onto papier-maché secret boxes. Then we added tissue paper squares, Colorations® Washable Glitter Paint, and spotted feathers. They are inspirational and so EASY to make.

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Children love to collage with tissue paper and magazine cut outs, and you can adapt these same ideas for your classroom. Here’s a good classroom collage set up from the education department of a children’s museum, where children have cut out and sorted magazine photos by color. Then they created individual color wheels from the assortment. How clever is that?

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Here’s a Vocabulary Collage lesson plan that you can download {just click here!}.

Scribbles, the new Colorations® parrot, introduces this and other creative art lessons on our website for 2015. Welcome, Scribbles! We do agree with Scribbles, “Art really is a colorful way to learn!”


Materials used:

Economy Weight White Poster Board – 50 sheets


Colorations® Washable Glitter Paint – set of 11


Spotted Feathers – 1 ounce


Secret Boxes – set of 12


Colorations® Washable Premium Glue Sticks – set of 30


* Brought to you by Discount School Supply®

* For more ideas, visit Art and Creativity in Early Childhood Education.

“Mommy, My Art is in the Trash!”

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“Mommy, my art is in the trash!” said 4-year-old Noah with shock and dismay. This is how Board Supervisor, Janice Rutherford, opened her keynote speech to a large group of educators. She held up her son’s paper plate painting, and told us how distressed he was when he found it in the trash can at home. How could this have happened? Surely it must be a mistake because who would throw away original artwork?

I was completely amused by her poignant message as this Education Board Member went on to show us that she “walked the walk” and “talked the talk” of early childhood education. She knows from first-hand experience and her own sensitivity that the values we instill in our children are important and our actions need to match those values. (By the way, she confessed to me later that she kept so much of Noah’s artwork, she had run out of storage room, but that she learned a lot from this lesson and would be more discreet in the future.)

How can we teach our children that we DO value their artwork, both at home at school?  Here are a couple of handouts to start the school year out. They make great take-home flyers for parents, or feel free to post them on your school web site. (Click each flyer for a full resolution version)

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In my next post, I’ll be highlighting “Art in the Foyer” and show you inspiring examples of children’s art in school foyers and classrooms. There are many temporary displays of process art experiences that enhance your classroom walls, but permanent or semi-permanent displays also add to your school aesthetics and make a statement about how you value creativity.

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In fact, without much cost at all you can turn your entire school into an Art Gallery full of children’s work. Here are a few creative ideas from Pierce College’s Child Development Center where Director Phyllis Schneider hosts a monthly forum and idea exchange for local Preschool Directors. This abstract feather painting hangs in their meeting room and was easy for children to create with feathers and Colorations® Metallic Activity paints on a large donated canvas.

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Phyllis gave me a tour and introduced me to their art specialist, a lead teacher named Miyuki. Sometimes it only takes one art oriented teacher to make a big difference in your entire school.  Hopefully you have one of those, like Miyuki, and will encourage her to spread her mark throughout your school. Check out some of these inspiring abstract painting examples, which I will talk about more in future posts.

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I hope you have had a great start to the school year. My life has been crazy busy with the back-to-school season, but things are finally settling down, whew! I hope you are settling into your routine as well and finding balance in your life. Remember to take care of yourself, and find time to do what you enjoy. And stay creative to replenish yourself.  Remember that art is one of the only ways you can find yourself and lose yourself at the same time. LOL. Anna

Key Words:

PreK Art, Value of Art, Art in Child Develoment, Parent Handouts, Parent Education, Messy Art, Paint Stains on Clothing,

Materials Used:
Colorations® Metallic Activity Paints

Colorations® Paint
Feathers, assorted pack
Smart Art and More Smart Art Books

* Brought to you by Discount School  Supply®

Group Art Activity: Tennis Ball Painting!

anna tennis ball painting 1Summer is almost over and here in Los Angeles school has already started. But for many children, there’s still a final stretch of summer freedom and the joys of outdoor play.

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Here’s a creative group art idea from Danielle Monroy, who own and operates Creative Care for Children in Santa Barbara.

Let Danielle’s children inspire you to take advantage of the final stretches of summer weather with messy art in the great outdoors.

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1 small plastic pool
Colorations® Simply Washable Tempera, poured into plastic tubs
An equal number of tennis ball
Salad tongs
Cooperative children
Large sheets of white paper

Stir together and serve with a smile!

Reports Danielle: Some of the great things about this project? It was a truly cooperative activity – it only works when everyone works together and the more they do, the more giggles are produced!

During outdoor play sometimes children need more large motor play. This is a wonderful large motor activity that includes art, collaboration and concentration!

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Danielle and I will be co-presenting on Science and Sensory Play at the CAEYC conference in April 2014. We’re calling it STEM to STEAM – combining art and science in the early childhood classroom. We’ll post new handouts on that topic on the blog here, so you can also try them out. Stay tuned, and thanks for checking in!    It’s a pleasure staying connected with people like you who actively explore new ideas and embrace their own creativity.

Materials Used:
Colorations® Simply Washable Paint – set of 11 (SWT16)
Butcher Paper Rolls (P4018)
Sand & Water Activity Tubs – set of 4 (TUBS)

* Brought to you by Discount School  Supply®

Creating a Place for Peace: The Quiet Corner

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Children need a place they can retreat to when they need to think, rest, or just decompress. Quiet corners give children a place to calm down and recover from the sensory overload of the classroom.  Do you have a calm and relaxing quiet corner in your classroom? With a fresh new year upon us, it’s a perfect time to create something new or improve your existing “cozy corner.”

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Here are some quiet corners that may give you fresh new ideas to de-stress your classroom. This quiet corner at Pressman Academy includes plants, soft lighting, artwork and soft butterfly pillows. Does it warm your heart? Does it make you feel safe?

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Quiet corners benefit from soft drapery that foster feelings of security and protection. That‘s a key benefit of the My Little Haven Canopy which hangs in Catherine Scott’s Family Child Care.  This product creates an instant quiet corner for just a $50 investment. If you’ve been wanting to create a quiet corner but haven’t had the time, this product is for you, it hangs immediately with no assembly. Just add soft pillows and books….voilà!

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Quiet calm is also provided in reading areas, where soft furniture can encourage rest and relaxation. This reading area is so relaxing, it serves double duty as a quiet corner. A cozy reading space provides children who struggle to focus a quiet place to learn.

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Dr. Becky Bailey, a leading expert on reducing stress in early childhood, just published a new book called I Can Calm. Her book promotion states: “Children who are stressed or upset cannot access the higher brain states necessary to problem-solve or learn. The I Can Calm book includes six simple deep breathing techniques proven to help shut off the fight or flight response.” What a timely book for us all.

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While quiet corners and reading centers provide children with a quiet space to deal with feelings, another calming classroom tool is the sensory table. Soft sensory bin materials provide children with the opportunity to self soothe through tactile stimulation. The sensory bins pictured here are filled with rainbow pom poms and pink Bubber™ with , both sensory products that are good choices for their potential to reduce stress.

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Lastly, here’s the Hideway Log Chair with Cushion, my personal favorite. This unique “cozy pod” comes with a removable “leaf” cushion and folds flat for storage. Like the My Little Haven Canopy above, it transforms any place in your room with a quick calming solution.

Young children often deal with conflict, frustration and over stimulation. Teaching them to take time in a quiet space now to deal with those feelings is a skill they can benefit from now and in the future.

What do YOU do to provide children with message, “I can calm”?  Please share your ideas with us here, so we can all have a more relaxed and stress free 2013.

Jan Blog Take What U Need LOVE

Enjoy a print out of this “Take What You Need” poster and have a wonderful start to the New Year.

Materials Used:
Hideaway Log Chair with Cushion (BURROW)

My Little Haven Canopy (HAVEN)
Woodland 10″ Pillows – set of 6 (WOODPIL)
“Calm-Down Time” Board Book (CALMDOWN)
Medium Best Value Sand and Water Activity Table (LWTAB)

Rainbow Striped Pom Poms – 200 pieces (COLORPOM)
Big Bag O Bubber™ – 30 oz bag (BIG30)

* Brought to you by Discount School  Supply®

Painting on Canvas & Studio Art

I visited Creative Care for Children in Santa Barbara last month and found the most inspiring art studio for young children, full of open ended art with emphasis on canvas painting. I was lucky enough to catch a young girl at work, and watched her carefully study each brush stroke and admire the results. Danielle Monroy, the Director and Owner of this inviting In-Home Preschool, told me how much her children enjoyed the freedom of painting and how the youngest children accomplished very impressive self portraits and abstracts, especially when given a stretched canvas to paint on. Here, Danielle shows how she helps children use masking tape to protect some sections of a canvas while they go on to develop other sections. In the painting she is holding here, waxed paper and masking tape are protecting the middle “self portrait” section which the child said was finished, while the background and surrounding areas are further developed. This “masking off” technique is particularly useful when using acrylic paint which is opaque. I’ll talk a little more about acrylics versus other paints at the end of this post.

Canvas always makes a painting seem official, as if painting on a canvas makes it “real art.” Maybe that’s because art galleries are filled with canvas paintings, and grownups artists usually paint on canvas. But it’s never too early for children to learn the pleasures of painting on the crisp white surface of canvas board, and with Discount School Supply’s new set of 6 canvas boards, you can do that affordably. Here are examples of toddler paintings on these very boards, taken on a site visit directed by Angie Gish at Grossmont Community College’s Child Development Center in San Diego. Each one is beautiful and their artful gallery display helps create a welcoming, intimate environment in this model toddler classroom.

What paint should you use on canvas? You can use any paint on canvas, but I recommend starting with either BioColor® or Colorations® Simply Washable Tempera and natural bristle easel brushes. Acrylic paint is also popular and offers the ability to layer without transparency, but it is not at ALL washable. Some people wait until elementary school before offering canvas for children to paint on, but I hope these pictures inspire you to dive right in way earlier than that. Have fun developing your art studio and help expand your children’s imaginations through open ended studio art.

Materials you will need:
Canvas – Real Stretched Canvas, set of 6 – Item VANGOGH
Small Easel Brush Set – Best Value Easel Brush Assortment – Item FULLSET
Classroom Easel Brush Set, set of 24 – Item SHPK
Best Paint Options:
BioColor® – BioColor, Set of 13 Colors – Item BIOSET
Colorations® Simply Washable Tempera – Set of 15 Classic and Cool Colors – Item SWTALL
Acrylic – Colorations Acrylic Paint, set of 8 – Item CACRYLIC

Art Gallery Activity

Inexpensive photo frames make a colorful Wall Gallery and allow you to easily change out artwork. These were purchased from Ikea for six dollars each, but Target, the 99cents store, and other value oriented retailers carry similar bargains. Make the project even better by decorating your own frames using simple and affordable beads, pipe cleaners and lace.

It’s important to display artwork tastefully to show off its value. Mounting or framing the simplest artwork brings out its aesthetic appeal. You may even know a woodworker or retired hobbyist who could handcraft simple wooden frames for your Gallery Wall. Don’t forget when you display art to make sure everyone’s artwork is included.